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Politics in the time of dengue

The political virus that has been plaguing the country reached epidemic proportion last Monday and expected to rage until May 2016. The more than 13,000 cases of  dengue sweeping Cavite and Bulacan and occasional mers corona virus will have to take a backseat to the malady sweeping the nation. The most visible symptom of this affliction in one bitten by the political bug is a messianic delusion that only they can save this benighted land. Thus, the Commission on Elections office in Intramuros, Manila was a madhouse scene last Monday with candidates driven by a zealous mission to serve the citizenry filing their certificates of candidacy for public office positions at stake in next year’s elections.

And so they came to the Comelec to file their CoCs like a swarm of job applicants vying for the 18,000 vacant positions. Leading the pack on opening day were Vice President Jejomar Binay, former ambassador Roy Señeres, former congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. and the perennial candidate Ely Pamatong who are applying for the presidency. It does not matter whether a candidate is facing a slew of corruption charges, or a lack of resources like campaign funds or political machinery. Lack of competence is seldom an issue; hence, we have in the Senate at least three senators who were elected because of either their money or popularity. This is a free country whose hallmark is “democrazy.” 

Binay brought along his Gringo Honasan, the last man standing the Veep found willing to be his running mate. Call it Bi-Hon, Bingo or Bigo, but the United Nationalist Alliance thinks it has the winning combination. Everyone thinks he or she can win. The following days after election, it’s a different story. Every losing candidate cries foul and claims he was cheated by his opponent through  “hocus-PCOS” machination and other acts of random madness.

If Gabriel Garcia Marquez has “Love in the Time of Cholera,” our country has politics in the time of dengue.. What a sad commentary on a society that is in dire need of meaningful change. The Colombian Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature is best known for his work, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” which bears more relevance to our own society and the events of our times. In his Solitude story, the author uses magic and colors with gold and yellow as a symbol of  death, change and destruction.  Seems familiar?

A suspicious study

Like political surveys sometimes questioned for their veracity, an economic study on taxation carried out by an international group is being disputed. The report of the international Oxford Economics that an estimated P22 billion in lost tax revenues was incurred due to illicit trade was disputed by no less than the Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares. She called the Oxford study as inaccurate, inconclusive and cited instead a World Bank report that only 5 percent and not 19 percent is lost to untaxed cigarettes.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue is the final arbiter of tax cases and Kim Henares is a tenacious pit bull when it comes to collecting taxes. Ask Manny Pacquiao or Judy Ann Santos who will attest and swear Kim Henares is not someone you want to tangle with.

Henares said the Oxford study is biased because it was commissioned by Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco, the biggest producers of cigarettes which mounted a strong lobby in Congress to oppose the passage of the Sin Tax Law. Released in Hong Kong to a chosen group of media, no one (not even relevant government agencies were furnished a copy of the report) has actually seen the OE study blaming the purported lost revenues because of cigarette packs sold without the required documentary tax stamps. Without naming the manufacturer of Mighty cigarettes, the motive is clearly to impute the “illicit trade” label to a brand that is fast gaining a foothold in the market. In so short a time, Mighty gained 30-percent sales to worry market leader Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco which still accounts for  more than 50 percent of cigarettes sold in this country.

The BIR chief said tax revenue collection, in fact, increased the past few months after the passage of the Sin Tax Law. 

Kim Henares’ statement is not something to be taken lightly when it comes to tax collection. She is committed to meeting the tax revenue target set by the Aquino administration. So if Henares says there is no dip in tax revenue on cigarette sales, you will have to take her word for it. She is also fully aware of the unlawful and unfair competition being waged by a major player in the tobacco business.

Market analysts traced the changing fortune of the dominant player to the dramatic shift by smokers after the Sin Tax Law implementation when they switched from the high-end foreign brand to a more affordable but still quality cigarette. This is the market niche the newcomer brand carved out from consumers who found the purchasing power of his peso diminished. It’s just plain and simple economics, really.

Topics: Alejandro del Rosario , dengue
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